I don’t read much science fiction (it’s nothing personal), but I would make an exception for the soft science fiction of Japanese novelist Yasutaka Tsutsui. Born in Osaka in 1934, Tsutsui is one of the most famous science fiction authors in Japan, and quite prolific – he’s been writing since the 60s and has racked up a lot of awards along the way. He also acts, so he’s quite the Renaissance Man. The two works in particular that I want to read are Paprika (1993) and one of his first novels from 1967, The Girl Who Leapt through Time (Toki o Kakeru Shōjo). I’ve seen the anime adaptations of each, and I really liked Satoshi Kon’s Paprika (2006), but I absolutely loved Mamoru Hosoda’s The Girl Who Leapt through Time (2006).
Paprika is about what can go wrong when people start sharing their dreams – and apparently everything can go wrong. Atsuko Chiba, alias Paprika, is the leading scientist in the field of dream sharing and it’s up to her to stop dreams from bleeding into reality. I think it’s kind of neat that this story was originally published in four parts in a magazine (Marie Claire of all places), and not put together in a book until 2003 – it reminds me of the Victorian triple deckers, no?
I enjoyed the movie, even though it was kind of scary and disturbing, and it was probably my favorite Kon film, though I generally find his to be a little too intense. Millennium Actress (2001) would be my next favorite, but the others I wouldn’t watch over. When I watched Inception (which was totally good), I couldn’t help thinking that Paprika had gotten ripped off a little. I guess it’s not a terribly original idea, but still. I hear that Wolfgang Petersen is thinking about doing a live action version of the book, but I doubt that he could improve on the anime or its great soundtrack. And Tsutsui actually cameos in the anime as the voice of the bartender – see, Renaissance Man.
The Girl Who Leapt through Time seems to be one of Tsutsui’s more popular works, or at least his most frequently adapted – there have been anime films, tv series, and live action movies. Like Paprika, this novel was also serialized in a magazine, this one aimed at school kids. The original story follows middle school student Kazuko Yoshiyama as she discovers that she has the ability to travel through time.
I had no expectations when I watched Mamoru Hosoda’s 2006 adaptation, but I totally fell in love. The movie departs somewhat from the book, but both at heart seem to be a love story in science fiction clothes. When high schooler Makoto Konno, the niece of Yoshiyama, discovers that she can make time leaps, she quickly uses her new powers to get her fill of purin, teppanyaki, and karaoke. But she soon learns that her actions have consequences, and more importantly, and heartbreakingly, she learns that time leaps can’t solve romantic problems between her and her best friends, Kōsuke Tsuda and Chiaki Mamiya.
I know Hosoda has only done two major films, this one and 2009’s Summer Wars (Samā Wōzu), but I’ve loved both of them so much that I would watch anything he made – including his new film, The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki (Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki), which is coming out in Japan in July. But as much as I loved this movie, I’m optimistic that the book will be equally good. Both seem to be slice of life romances that are lavender scented. For some reason the English translation wasn’t published until last year, so I’m hoping to get my little hands on a copy soon. Though when I read it, I might look up and discover that a whole afternoon has disappeared without me finishing my homework.